Ichiro and Infield Hits

Although I am not especially a Seattle Mariners fan, I am an unmitigated Ichiro Suzuki fan. Not only is he an incredible baseball player, he is also an amazing interviewee. Over the weekend he hit us with this.

I think there’s sexiness in infield hits because they require technique.

Ichiro provides offensive value with his above average OBP, fueled not by walks, but by limiting strikeouts and a sky-high BABIP. That is were the infield hits come in. Ichiro hits a high percentage of grounders, which have a higher BABIP than fly balls so right there we should expect him to have a high BABIP. But beyond that his BABIP on grounders in much higher than league average.

BABIP
+--------------+---------+---------+
|              |  Ichiro | Average |
+--------------+---------+---------+
| Ground Balls |   0.305 |   0.242 |
| Fly Balls    |   0.119 |   0.139 |
| Line Drives  |   0.705 |   0.720 | 
| Bunts        |   0.663 |   0.441 |
+--------------+---------+---------+

Ichiro maintains his very high BABIP by beating the league average on ground balls and bunts. He uses his speed and left-handedness (that much closer to first base) to beat out throw on balls on the ground. Beyond that Ichiro also hits more opposite field grounders than most lefties. In the histogram below 45 degrees corresponds to the first base line and -45 to the third base line.
spray

These opposite field grounders are more likely to be infield hits because they are farther from first base. A good number of these opposite field grounders are on pitches away outside of the strike zone.

Combine that OBP-driven offensive value with great defense and almost never missing games, and you have one of the best outfielders of 2000s.



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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


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radiosurgery
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radiosurgery

I only see one place were you messed up Dave ;)

Great article, Ichiro is one of the most underrated players in the big leagues and watching him as a Seattle Mariner is a real privaledge.

Joe R
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Joe R

Underrated by stat guys
Overrated by most everyone else

Usually what I see is one camp scream “200 HITS! .330 AVERAGE! AWESOME!”, only for the other side to take the absolute opposite path and discuss his much less spectacular OBP, his ordinary SLG, and positional adjustments, blah blah, without paying much service to his glove.

What annoys me is how similar he is to Tim Raines, but Ichiro is a slam dunk HoF’r because his BA is high, while writers don’t pay Raines the same respect for being walk happy.

Pinball1973
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Pinball1973

But the writers suck. That’s a given. I love Ichiro like my dad loved Willy Mays, but Raines is still slightly more deserving as a valuable player of the HoF at the moment. The contradiction you mention doesn’t annoy me at all – many writers will drag out the same BS against Ichiro the morans* here use EVERY SINGLE TIME Ichiro is mentioned, but he’ll be going in.
But if baseball is ONLY about “winning”, I would give it up today. It’s about excitement and history at least as much as it’s about “winning”, for me anyway (Nothing could make me a Yankees fan. You?) For entertainment and excitement, Ichiro is the best-rounded player since… It’s hard to even find a comparison (for me, of course). Pujols is the best today: the most exciting at the plate and a presence in the field, but Ichiro is Ichiro at all times – a phenomenon.
Nine AS games should be it’s own ticket into the HoF, frankly, much less nine in a row, beginning from your rookie year.

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